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Regional Picks: Shrubs For Shade – South

Fine Gardening - Issue 188

1. Fall-Blooming Camellia

Name: Camellia sasanqua

Zones: 7–9

Size: 4 to 10 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Morning sun to full shade; moist, organic, well-drained soil

Native range: Japan

Fall-blooming camellias are a spectacular way to add more color to the autumn shade garden. Blooms appear from early fall to early winter set amid lustrous, dark evergreen leaves that highlight the white, pink, or red flowers. With smaller leaves and overall size than spring-blooming camellias (Camellia japonica, Zones 7–9), and with several dwarf varieties available, these abundant bloomers are better adapted for use in smaller gardens and foundation plantings.


2. Japanese Plum Yew

Name: Cephalotaxus harringtonia cvs.

Zones: 6–9

Size: 2 to 10 feet tall and wide; may slowly reach 20 to 30 feet

Conditions: Partial to full shade; medium to low moisture; well-drained soil

Native range: Japan, China, Korea

This lovely evergreen tolerates deep shade, hot weather, and deer. Its short, dark green needles are arranged in a V-pattern along erect stems, giving it a fernlike appearance that combines well with other plants. There are cultivars to suit a variety of needs: ‘Duke Gardens’ has a spreading, mounded habit, ‘Fastigiata’ (pictured) is columnar, ‘Korean Gold’ is columnar with gold tips, and ‘Prostrata’ has a low, spreading habit.


3. Paperbush

Name: Edgeworthia chrysantha

Zones: 7–10

Size: 8 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Partial shade; medium to low moisture; well-drained soil

Native range: China

For terrific multiseason interest, paperbush is a must-have for the Southern garden. This deciduous shrub puts on a winter show, with large, silvery white flower buds capping attractive brown branches (pictured). The buds burst open in late winter to reveal wonderfully fragrant, umbrella-shape flower heads, each one holding around forty tubular yellow flowers that resemble tiny paper scrolls. Attractive, large, medium green leaves appear once the blooms have faded.


4. ‘Wheeler’s Variety’ Butcher’s Broom

Name: Ruscus aculeatus ‘Wheeler’s Variety’

Zones: 7–9

Size: 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; average to dry, well-drained soil

Native range: Europe and western Asia

If you need a tough evergreen shrub for dry shade and heavy root competition, this is the plant for you. Historically used in Southern gardens as a substitute for boxwood (Buxus spp. and cvs., Zones 5–9), this unique evergreen produces dense clumps of upright stems with dark green “foliage” (actually modified stems) that can be used in fl oral arrangements. ‘Wheeler’s Variety’ is self-fertile, producing bright red berries from early fall through winter without needing a pollinator.


Valerie Jones Hinesley is a landscape architect and second-generation owner of Piccadilly Farm Nursery and Gardens in Bishop, Georgia.

Photos: millettephotomedia.com ( 1); Richard Bloom ( 2); Janet M. Jemmont ( 3); courtesy of Plant Delights Nursery Inc. ( 4)

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